Friday, February 3, 2017

Quit apologizing

There's a lot in the news lately about the 'right' way to say you're sorry, including a recent article in the New York Times.  The reports talk about making the apology without disclaimers or conditions, and keeping in mind that the purpose of the apology is to make the other person feel better.. except that you have to be careful you don't mention that you want them to forgive you....

But there's a problem with these reports.

You see, the reports use apologizing and saying you're sorry, interchangeably.  But apologizing is quite different from saying you're sorry.  Really, it is.  I looked it up. To apologize is to admit failings or fault... it's an admission of wrongdoing.  'I'm sorry'  expresses regret... but it's regret about the situation.. not a personal admission of fault.

And while maybe it's always okay to say "I'm sorry", there are many instances when "I apologize" is wrong.

A few months ago, I found myself saying --

Quit Apologizing.  You're Just Making Me Angry.

Yes, I truly did use those words.  No, I wasn't shouting... but I was being quite firm.  (which is why I've capitalized each word.)

To be honest, even I was surprised to hear myself say "Quit apologizing, you're just making me angry". But that gives you an idea of how angry I was.

Let me give you some background, and I think perhaps you'll understand.

I was on the phone with Bank of America.  (and already, I see many of you nodding your heads in understanding.)  I was following up on a phone call I'd made two days earlier.  The purpose of that earlier phone call had been to find out why Bank of America had not produced the paperwork they were supposed to have sent, two months earlier.  Well, actually, two and a half months earlier, but who's counting.  And that earlier phone call concluded with the promise that the paperwork would be faxed to me right away.

Except that, two days later, it wasn't. So I was on the phone again.

Now, I understand that B of A has some 'image' issues.  And I can see that they might instruct their employees in the customer service department to be ultra-nice and ultra-cheerful and ultra-friendly. And apparently customer service translated all those ultras into a directive to apologize to the customer.  And I understand that customer service person #2 .. and even customer service person #1... was not responsible for B of A's failure to do what they should have done, two months earlier.  And #2 was not responsible for the fact that the remedy that #1 had promised... hadn't happened.  It's even quite possible that #1 was not responsible for the fact that the promised remedy hadn't happened. But it was absolutely clear that neither person #1 nor person #2 was admitting that they'd done anything wrong.

In all fairness to me, I didn't snap at customer service person #1.. and I didn't snap at customer service person #2 the first three times she said I apologize.  But apparently, for this camel, the fourth time is the final straw. As you might imagine, customer service person #2 intially was a little taken aback at my outburst. But habits are habits, so a few moments later, once again she said "I apologize".

Sigh.  So I let that one go.  And the next time she said it, I let that one go, as well.  The phone conversation was nearly over, and it was apparent that I wasn't going to change customer service person #2.  And, for what it's worth, the action that should have occurred more than two months before the phone call, did indeed finally happen.

Apologies are okay.  Saying you're sorry is okay.  But use the one you mean, and mean the one you use.

The recent New York Times article said, "An apology actually affects the bodily funtions of the person receiving it - blood pressure decreases, heart rate slows and breathing becomes steadier."


Frankly, I'm better off having a cup of tea.